In one of the nation’s most fiercely contested electoral battles, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, has defeated Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent. President Trump concluded his own push for Republican candidates with a rally for Hawley on Monday night.
Republicans had long coveted McCaskill’s seat, which she successfully defended in 2012 by defeating Rep. Todd Akin, who infamously mused about “legitimate rape.” But Missouri has increasingly turned Republican, voting for Trump by a wide margin in 2016. In that same election, Republican newcomer Eric Greitens was elected governor, replacing Democrat Jay Nixon, and Hawley was elected Missouri’s attorney general.
It seemed, at first, that Greitens was the one with national promise, with some even speculating that the former Navy SEAL could be a presidential candidate. But earlier this year, he resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct came to light, as well as questions about his campaign fundraising.
As a fellow Republican with national ambitions, Hawley had shown constituents that he was willing to investigate Greitens while not alienating the Republicans whose votes he would eventually need. A recent investigation by the Kansas City Star indicated that Hawley was not as aggressive into looking at Greitens’s several misdeeds as he could have been.
Hawley was also hounded by suspicions by that he was, as a Politico profile put it, a “lackadaisical candidate” who was squandering an opportunity to defeat a Democratic incumbent.
His victory may ultimately be a sign of McCaskill’s weakness. Over the summer, she was caught using a private plane on her RV tour of Missouri. And her vote against Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh — who was accused of sexual misconduct and of providing inaccurate testimony to Congress — reminded voters that she was a Democrat in an increasingly red state.
McCaskill recently tried to draw a distinction between herself and “crazy Democrats,” as she put it on Fox News, referring to her liberal colleagues in the Senate. But to the increasingly conservative voters of Missouri, this was a distinction without a difference.
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